I have recently read several articles about the complex nature of PLM: PLM Should be Like Google, and PLM is Too Complicated. Some would like to make it simpler, and some would like to remove much of what we see today in modern PLM software tools. Managing a product’s life-cycle is not simple. By definition, the tools that do this job well will not be like playing Solitaire. I think there can be some things done to simplify PLM for many users, but, in my opinion the answer lies in better education.

When software doesn’t appear to work correctly, users blame the software, management blames the users, customers blame the company, and everyone thinks it is someone else’s problem. When PLM software is complex and difficult to use, the blame is usually placed on the software, or the vendor, or someone else. Usually, no one says “Gee, I need more education so that I can use this software properly.”

Here are 3 simple steps that you can follow to make sure you have trained your users to use your PLM solutions properly:

1) Education and Training Plan – Too often education and training gets relegated to a low priority. A plan for education must be created before any software is ever purchased. Allow plenty of time for education and provide chances for users to give feedback before the software is implemented so that you can accommodate various ways of working at your company.

2) Super User Training – Make sure you identify several smart, intelligent, experienced, and good looking people to fill the role of a super user; ok, they don’t have to be good looking, but it doesn’t hurt. These users should be experts in their organization, looked up to, and knowledgeable in your company processes. These experts may be part of the PLM team as you evaluate solutions and determine your direction with PLM. They can also lend helpful advice during PLM implementation planning. After roll-out they will be an indispensable tool in helping all users get up to speed quickly.

3) On-going user groups – Many companies do initial user education, roll out the PLM software, and then hope for the best. New PLM software capabilities are often added in point releases, but no one ever gets re-trained. With this approach, it’s no wonder the users can’t use the software. There must be follow-up and constant interactions with the users to understand their issues, introduce new features, and communicate future PLM activities. When users feel that they are on their own without adequate training, they will often point their fingers at the software. Monthly user meetings with leadership from your super users will help users feel empowered. Throw in some free pizza, and that’s a winning formula in my book.

Follow these three simple rules, and I think you will see happier users who feel like PLM experts. It will make a big difference in your PLM activities.

Do you think your users are properly educated? Let me know what you do to keep them sharp!